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Specifically, this sentence:

"He got depressed right after when his wife died."

with the intended meaning

He got depressed right after his wife died.

If you wouldn't mind, I would very much appreciate your judgment falling into one of the following categories:

(1) It's junk. I'd make a face if I heard someone say it or saw it written and would feel like I definitely wanted to correct it.
(2) It's alright - but I'd rather it was said a different way (e.g. the intended meaning way)
(3) It's perfect. I'd probably say this or write this.

Feel free to qualify your judgment with commentary, of course.

My great linguistic love to you, in advance.
(My judgment is in the comments section.)


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 23rd, 2005 07:12 pm (UTC)
I vote (1)...my purple pen would be itching to cross out the when if I saw this written down.
Aug. 24th, 2005 12:52 pm (UTC)
M high-school english teacher would be useing red pen, and writing a very nasty note in the margin too.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 07:33 pm (UTC)
I'd pardon it spoken and twitch if it was written.

I do tolerate (and perpetuate) a great deal of poor grammar in informal formats1 - livejournal, email, fiction with "voice" - but for some reason, this particular one just grates.

[1] I personally tend to run two irrelevant words together to attempt to convey a single concept, usually a sensory one for which I don't know of a pre-existing word. I also overuse 'and' to the degree that sometimes I'm surprised anyone puts up with my livejournal/email writing.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 07:39 pm (UTC)
Those two sentences don't mean exactly the same thing. They have the same first level meaning, but different emphasis. "When" puts some emphasis on the event - his wife dying - and then his being depressed as an effect of that event. WIthout the when, the emphasis is on his depression as the subject, with the fact that his wife died as the explanation. There's no intention to point out the actual event of her death as something for the listener/reader to think about, just the fact that she died as a fait accompli.

It's a sort of continuum, something like this:
- He got depressed right after his wife died.
- He got depressed right after when his wife died
- His wife died, and right after that, he got depressed.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC)
I'll go along with this, but given the intended meaning, how does the actual sentence form sound to you? (If you can't parse it as meaning the intended meaning, then it's probably junk to you, effectively.)
Aug. 23rd, 2005 10:10 pm (UTC)
I think it means what I described it as meaning, which is almost the "intended meaning" but with a subtle change in emphasis. Whether that subtle change was consciously intentional or not, it's there, and probably gives a clue as to how the speaker/writer was thinking about it. It sounds just fine.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 07:52 pm (UTC)
In speech, I'd just assume it was one of those times when you say a word and then realize that it doesn't take the sentence in the direction you wanted it to go, but you haven't gone so far with it that you have to just lapse into influency and start over.

In writing, the interpretation Cos mentioned might occur to me, but it's definitely not a good way of expressing either possible meaning.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC)
Category 2. It's fine, and I might say it if I hadn't throught out the sentence before I spoke it, but the intended meaning seems clearer.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 07:55 pm (UTC)
Put me in for a 2. I don't like it, but it's not total junk. I'd correct it if I was editing a document in it, but I'd let it go in conversation, I think.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC)
A 2, but closer to the 3 side than the 1 side. Probably something like 2.4 - it's only very slightly weird, and I probably wouldn't produce it, but I can accept it with no problem. I'm not sure if prosody makes a difference here or not - I have no idea how to talk about prosody in any kind of technical manner, and I apologize for that, but roughly I can imagine it being either closer to "He got depressed right after, when his wife died" or "He got depressed right after when his wife died" but both seem alright - I might find the first a little less weird at least in very casual contexts, but even the second is reasonably okay.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC)
"It's junk" is too strong, but I definitely did make a face when I first read it. Usually with subtly wrong sentences you notice the mistake in the second reading. This was a weird sentence in that I noticed it was technically correct in the second reading.
Aug. 23rd, 2005 09:58 pm (UTC)
Random passer-by...
I pick #1, unless the writer/speaker put an obvious comma or other-type pause between after and when. Contextual example:

The first week of spring was a happy time. He got depressed right after, when his wife died.

It gives it a slightly different interpretation, though. I guess I'd have to stick with #1.
Aug. 24th, 2005 04:00 am (UTC)
I don't know that I'd call it junk but it makes my brain itch in a way most like (1).
Aug. 24th, 2005 03:50 pm (UTC)
I'd say 2. It bothers me to read it, but I don't think I would even notice it if it were spoken.
Aug. 25th, 2005 05:59 am (UTC)
...if it was written or spoken. If written, no excuse. If spoken, was there a pause in the middle? Probably no excuse for spoken, either.
Aug. 25th, 2005 06:00 am (UTC)
Re: Depends...
Whoops, didn't intend to be mysterious.
Sep. 3rd, 2005 10:10 am (UTC)
2)OK to speak, but not acceptable written in anything formal, unless a comma or semi-colon is added, so it becomes, 'He got depressed right after; when his wife died.'.

If I was into pedantry, I'd have to replace the 'got' with 'became'. We were banned from using 'got' or 'get' in English when at school; but my English is so flawed I'd not be too aggrieved by the 'got' or the 'when' if the feeling of the text was OK or the user was operating at the limits of their English skills.
Sep. 7th, 2005 01:54 am (UTC)
I randomly found your LJ, but here's my two cents...


"After when" is a time flow redundancy.

Kinda like "preheating" an oven. What are you going to do, heat it up before you heat it up? :-P

Sep. 7th, 2005 11:27 am (UTC)
Yeah - this is actually my judgment, too, but for a different reason. I would completely agree with your point if it had been "during when". For instance, if you're going to "translate" the sentence below, you do it with "during" or maybe "at":

He got depressed right when his wife died.

= He got depressed right during/at the time his wife died.

"After" is additional information - you don't (usually) infer the speaker means "after the time" given the sentence.
(Hence, my interest in whether you could put the preposition there overtly or not. :) )
Sep. 8th, 2005 06:18 am (UTC)
I found you through random, so I forgive me if I sound completely off.

My grammar skills are not anywhere near great, but that sentence seems very weak to me... What exactly is it for?

First off, it is telling, not showing. He got depressed... so what? It's 1 am, but I'll try something:

The void that his wife filled with her life was left vacant, sinking the man into a dark and lonely existance.

It probably sucks, but it was just an example. I'm sure you can do much better.

If you want to tell it, and not show it, it is still weak. If it was just in conversation, I wouldn't think twice. But if it is to be in a slightly more professional area, like a speech or article, I would pass over it, not really caring.
Sep. 8th, 2005 12:25 pm (UTC)
No worries - this was for a linguistics study. I was interested in whether or not you would accept the sentence ever (in coversation, for instance) or if it was just "bad" (known as "ungrammatical" in linguistics-speak - which may be different from most definitions of ungrammatical that one runs across).

In terms of effective prose, I absolutely agree with you on the poor quality of the sentence. ;) However, for me, I'd cringe even if I heard it in conversation. Hence, I wanted to know if it was acceptable for anyone else, since you learn not to rely on just your own judgments in linguistics after awhile.

Thanks for taking the time to answer!
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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Jalen Strix

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